Friday, July 6, 2018

Sepia Saturday: Mathias Homestead


Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.


This week’s Sepia Saturday photo has made me imagine what my early ancestors might have looked like sitting at some home-crafted table in their roughly-hewn log house in the wilderness of frontier America. My children and grand-baboos will not have to work as hard to imagine it as I do because they have an ancestral home to look to.
 
Mathias homestead Mathias, WV https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Mathias Homestead Mathias, Hardy Co, West Virginia 1989

This is the John T. Mathias Homestead in where else but Mathias, West Virginia. This historic home was built by my husband Barry’s 4X great-grandfather in 1797 and remained in the Mathias family for over 165 years before the last owner deeded it to the Mathias Civic Center Association in 1974. Four years later it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Mathias homestead even has its own Wikipedia page. Yeah, we’re pretty famous - in a small town.

John Tobias Mathias (who doesn’t love a rhyming name?) was among the earliest settlers in the area. Like many of our German ancestors, his family emigrated from Alsace-Lorraine to escape religious persecution. His family first settled around Philadelphia and then moved inland into Lancaster County. From there they moved to Frederick County, Maryland and then on to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Their last stop was the Lost River Valley in Hardy County. At the time it was a frontier county of Virginia; since the Civil War, it is in West Virginia.

Mathias Homestead Mathias, WV https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
courtesy Justin A. Wilcox 2014
Wikimedia Commons CC by SA 4.0 
John T. acquired the land in 1791. The house he built had four rooms, an attic loft, sturdy interior stairs, a good number of windows, a double porch and fireplace on both floors. It was considered quite substantial for its time. However, the next generation found the house to be too small and so SOMEONE - probably his son John T. Jr. or grandson - built an addition in 1825.



Mathias Homestead Mathias, WV https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Back view
courtesy Justin A. Wilcox 2014
Wikimedia Commons CC by SA 4.0 

Mathias Homestead Mathias, WV https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
End view
courtesy Justin A. Wilcox 2014
Wikimedia Commons CC by SA 4.0 

The Mathias house was considered rather grand for its time, especially for poor farmers living in the Lost River Valley. Its location on the main road made it a natural stop for travelers seeking a safe place to rest overnight. Not surprisingly the Mathias family found themselves hosting some famous people and events.

Lee Sulphur Springs Lost River State Park https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Lee Sulphur Springs
Lost River State Park, Mathias, WV
One such guest was General Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee of Revolutionary War fame. Supposedly he made the Mathias house his headquarters prior to purchasing his own tract of land just up the road in what is now Lost River State Park. In an earlier version of the park, it had been known as Howard’s Lick Resort, a popular vacation spot boasting the medicinal benefits of Lee Sulphur Springs. And just so you know, I’ve stood at those springs at many a Mathias reunion. Pee-yoo!

The Mathias homestead was also the site for some county court meetings. During the Civil War, Hardy County was divided over whether to support the Union or the Confederacy. From Barry’s ancestors’ Civil War records, it appears the folks in and around Mathias supported the South. Nearly a year after West Virginia was formed, a VIRGINIA County Court meeting was conducted at the Mathias house on May 2, 1864. Southern sentiment was still running deep, it seems.

The house likely passed from John T. in 1806 to his son John T. Jr who passed it to his son John B. in 1866. From John B. the house passed to John Thomas who in 1891 passed the house to Philip Seymour Mathias, a great-great grandson of John T. Mathias.

Philip’s family was the last to occupy the home. They are pictured here probably about 1905 judging by the assumed ages of the youngest children and the absence of two who were not yet born. The house had been modernized with clapboard siding and whitewashed.  


Photo courtesy RunionStrawderman on Ancestry
On the porch: Dock See, Virgil with father Philip Mathias, Roxie Mae Mathias,
and Philip's mother Mary A. Bowman Mathias
In front: Sadie Caldwell Mathias and Philip's sister Mary Etta Mathias Moyers
The last resident of the home place was Sadie Caldwell Mathias, Philip's widow. After her death in 1969, the house sat empty until sons Virgil and Wendell Mathias sold it to the Mathias Civic Center Association in 1974. The association also purchased additional property for the construction of its civic center.

For many years, the Mathias reunion was held at Lost River State Park on Father’s Day. One year failure to reserve a spot prompted the family to gather at the Mathias Community Center instead.  
 
Mathias Reunion 1989 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
1989 - Daughter #2 outside the community center

Mathias Reunion 1989 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
1989 - Descendants of John T. Mathias around the table
Mathias Reunion 1989 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
1989 - Making room for all the food

















Looking at the 1989 reunion pictures, I am amused by the two-tone wall - just the opposite of the walls in the prompt photo.

Everyone is invited to the table at Sepia Saturday.

Wendy
© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

15 comments:

  1. Wonderful that you can trace so vividly the history of your ancestral home, and giod that it is still a focus for community activities. A fascinating post.

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    1. Thanks Susan. The house doesn't mean as much to ME since it's not from my side of the family, but I hope my daughters will appreciate having this story in their memory bank.

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  2. What a fine looking home! It must have been very well built and well taken care of to still look so good. I laughed at your "pee-yoo" comment re: Sulphur Springs. Who doesn't love the smell of rotting eggs?!! :))

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    1. Yeah - nothing says "good-health-inducing" like the aroma of rotting eggs!

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  3. That's amazing the house has "held" together for such a long time! So much history in it indeed!

    betty

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    1. I agree. No termites? No rot? No fire? How did this log house make it when so many didn't?

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  4. What a great story of a family and a home...which you've preserved as well as the family which gathers for reunions. I had to look hard to see the two toned wall! Yes, log structures do seem to last!

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    1. About the walls - me too! It was a last minute spotting that was hard to see for all the people in the way.

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  5. That is a fabulous log mansion! I think we can best understand American history when historic buildings like this are preserved. My first thought was that it was an old coach inn. Perhaps the Mathias family ran an early version of Airbnb.

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    1. I hope ol' Lighthorse Harry left a positive review on TripAdvisor and Yelp.

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  6. This is an amazing chronicle of a family homestead...and how fortunate that it still exists as a community center! The ideal place for a family reunion.

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  7. Wonderful that your husband and children have such an historic family home still standing!

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  8. I also wondered about the homes of my long ago relatives, but wonder is about all I can do. What a treasure for the Mathias family to be able to be present in this old family home.

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  9. What a wonderful piece of solid history that house is, so closely tied to the history of your family. I suppose there is a far greater tradition of establishing a "family home" when families move to a new life in a new country.

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